Immigrants, Crime, and the American Dream: Testing a Segmented Assimilation Theory of Crime

Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol. 2022 Apr;66(5):560-586. doi: 10.1177/0306624X21994061. Epub 2021 Feb 11.


The immigrant-crime relationship is often misunderstood and highly complex. To date, criminological research has largely ignored theory testing of this relationship. This paper examines the extant literature on intergenerational offending amongst immigrant youth and subsequently tests whether the segmented assimilation theory- a theory borrowed from the interdisciplinary social sciences- adequately explains immigrant offending. The study uses data (N = 1,267) from the Pathways to Desistance Study (PTD) to examine intergenerational differences in changes to offending between immigrant youth and the native-born. The analyses largely reveal that the theory, based on its original assumptions, fails to adequately explain youth offending, and that the models provide more support for the straight-line theory of assimilation in regards to delinquency. Limitations and recommendations are discussed and proffered, respectively.

Keywords: assimilation; crime; delinquency; immigrant; segmented assimilation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Crime
  • Emigrants and Immigrants*
  • Humans
  • United States